From the overhead thunder of planes jetting by, to the ordinary thrum of the various gadgets that make modern life good, the resulting noise pollution isn’t so good — and is being blamed for a host of of long-term health problems. So an interesting trend emerging in travel has been to seek out the silence.
And few places are quiet as the group of islands on the North Coast of British Columbia, Canada, known informally as the Queen Charlotte Islands, but more correctly since mid 2010 as Haida Gwaii, or “islands of the people”. You could also use the older name, Xaadala Gwayee, “islands at the boundary of the world” – but they all refer to the same idyllic spot: an archipelago measuring 180 miles and comprised of labyrinth-likes coves next to forests thick with stately cedars.
Image via gohaidagwaii.com
“We brought students—minus laptops and cell phones—to the forest,” recalls one Haida leader, noting that a tablet of paper for sketching was allowed, as was a pencil. “A couple hours later, one student said the sound of the pencil scratching on the pad was too loud.” For in Haida Gwaii, your listening sense is treated a much-needed rest – plus the opportunity to listen for subtle sounds rather than hide from loud ones. “You hear the water washing down the beaches,” agrees another local, plus “clams squirting, and ravens, eagles, and songbirds in the forest.”
GETTING THERE & GETTING AROUND
May 1-September 15 is the Summer season, featuring cultural events, tours of places like SGang Gwayy, a UNESCO World Heritage location, dining aplenty and easy lodging. Air Canada flies twice daily from Vancouver to Sandspit. However, if you decide to brave the Winter months of October through May, you’ll enjoy surfing season. Pacific Coastal Airlines offers daily flights between between Vancouver and Masset, located on Graham Island on the northern end. You’ll need to rent a car to get around, and if you plan to visit somewhere remote, plan to go by floatplane or boat tour.
WHERE TO STAY
The Haida House at Tllaal is a charming, post-and-beam lodge with ten rooms decorated in traditional red and black. Their guides do double-duty as cultural ambassadors for their nation. They also lead hikes and take visitors on studio tours of weavers and carvers who are famed for their carvings of argillite, jewelry made from silver, masks and woven goods – all of which make for fabulous souvenirs. And after a shopping spree, the classy visitor says their thank yous in the local tongue: haawa (pronounced how-a).
Image via fullmoonphoto.ca
EAT & DRINK
If you’re in the mood to make your own chowder, National Geographic’s Explorer-in-Residence Wade Davis notes that the best spot for quickly digging up a bounty of razor clams is on Graham Island’s North Beach. Alternatively, razor clams are on the menu at The Haida House during Summer, as are octopus, black cod (sablefish), smoked salmon, dried fish – along with the bounty of the garden.
Alarmed by the eco nightmare of clearcutting, many Haida began protesting nonviolently in the mid 1980s by blockading the logging road. Their efforts resulted in the creation of Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve, National Marine Conservation Area Reserve, and Haida Heritage Site. Author John Vaillant wrote The Golden Spruce: A True Story of Myth, Madness, and Greed about a logger-turned-activist who became obsessed with protecting an old-growth 165 foot Sitka spruce – a towering, 165-foot behemoth covered with a luxuriant coat of golden needles – and led to it being destroyed.
If you take a trip to Gwaii let us know. Tweet us @ISHARYA and tell us how your adventure was.